So much is up in the air. So many questions need to be answered.
To help us get a good perspective on the legislative session and once again, have asked Bernie Pinsonat to address some of the hot issues--in what we have in the past have named and today call, “Bernie Burns”.
Pinsonat is an often-quoted Louisiana political consultant and pollster. His firm is Southern Media and Opinion Research.
Below is the first installment of a multi-part series of “Bernie Burns”.
With the legislative session weeks away, what do you see as the major issues from the perspective of legislators who are running for reelection?
The state operating budget, as of today, has the potential to affect the reelection of a majority of state legislators. Latest round of budget cuts only continued the last five years or so of never- ending budget reductions to state services. Lack of revenue has certainly had an effect on Governor Jindal’s popularity with about sixty percent of Louisiana voters rating his job performance as negative. Legislators in rural areas will definitely face the biggest challenge getting reelected. Hospitals, parish government and school boards provide most of the jobs in these rural parishes. These government employees are not happy campers when it comes to the budget cuts emanating from the state capitol. Teachers and hospital employees will be increasingly hostile to incumbents if the next round of budget cuts goes into effect just as these legislators qualify for reelection. If the upcoming session does not provide solutions (temporary or short term) that avoid a billion plus in new cuts – I would be surprised if fifteen to twenty incumbent legislators were not reelected. The demise of the Democratic Party certainly occurred at an inopportune time. Most white democrats dislike of President Obama and can be counted on to vote for any republican running for congress or US Senator. Lots of these white democrats also dislike Governor Jindal because of budget cuts to state services and especially cuts to health care. The disenchantment with state government and Governor Jindal would normally have democratic candidates eager to challenge republicans running for reelection. Instead most incumbent republicans who are challenged will be facing another republican.
It is no surprise that Governor Jindal is having his issues with the budget and it is beginning to affect his presidential campaign efforts. With his being term limited, how will his popularity (or lack of popularity) impact his agenda? The legislature? Those wanting to win an election?
As of today it is not about Governor Jindal’s agenda, his lame duck status or his national ambitions - Governor Jindal has to avoid massive cuts to state services; avoid closing parts of our universities or hospitals and at all cost avoid furloughing state workers. If these deep cuts actually happen, Bobby Jindal’s political career would be over – stick a fork in his political ambitions! Can he avoid this political disaster by the continued use of band aides and delay the inevitable cuts - will the legislature go along? Can Governor Jindal avoid cutting by raising revenue from sources that do not derail his national ambitions (raising taxes)? Will Governor Jindal finally lose control over the legislature? Governor Jindal remains popular with a very slight majority of whites and most republicans – is this enough to maintain control over the budget process? Will the legislature reign in movie credits and corporate tax breaks? This could be the most historic legislative session any of us will ever witness - lots of drama, lots of blame, maybe some nasty name calling speeches add to this explosive mixture a governor’s race with candidates posturing to get one up on their rivals. WOW I am so ready for this session to begin.